France says Geneva Syria plans implies Assad must go
PARIS (Reuters) - French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday that a text agreed by members of the U.N. Security Council in Geneva on a political transition for Syria implied that President Bashar al-Assad would have to step down.
World powers agreed in Geneva on Saturday that a transitional government should be set up in Syria to end the conflict there, but they appeared at odds over what part Assad might play in the process.
When asked why it appeared Russia and China had a different perspective on the future of Assad, Fabius said:
"Even if they say the opposite, the fact that the text says specifically that there will be a transitional government with all powers means it won't be Bashar al-Assad ... because it will be people that are agreed to by mutual consent.
"The opposition will never agree to him, so it signals implicitly that Assad must go and that he is finished," Fabius told television station TF1.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday the plan did not imply at all that Assad should step down as there were no preconditions excluding any group from the proposed national unity government.
Peace envoy Kofi Annan said after the talks the government should include members of Assad's administration and the Syrian opposition and that it should arrange free elections.
Fabius said a meeting on July 6 in Paris with more than 100 participants would aim to create a "united front" among all strands of the opposition to help put in place the Annan proposal. Neither China nor Russia have agreed to attend the "Friends of Syria" conference.
France, along with Western and some Arab states, has been trying for months to increase the pressure on Damascus. It has been seeking to reach a compromise with Russia, a supporter of Assad, to allow tougher action by the Security Council and move towards a political transition.
In June, Paris proposed making Annan's existing peace plan for Syria obligatory by invoking the U.N.'s "Chapter 7" provision, which allows the Security Council to authorize actions ranging from sanctions to military intervention.
"If the decisions made yesterday are not enough, we will return to the U.N. Security Council and ask for a Chapter 7, meaning the obligation to apply this decision," he said.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Diana Abdallah)
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